Anne Queen's role in press coverage of the UNC food workers' strike
Pollitt describes the negative impact of the local press on the public's perception of the UNC food workers' strike. Anne Queen served as the intermediary between the workers and the administration. Pollitt argues that she did a lot to alter the public's perception about worker's rights.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- CINDY CHEATHAM:
Can we talk a little bit about the food worker's strike and
Anne's role in that strike?
- DANIEL H. POLLITT:
The strike was for wages and more than that, for dignity. And it was a
dirty thing that the University did in that they were working people
eight hours and paying them eight hours, but they were not paying them
minimum wage on the theory that minimum wage doesn't apply to
state employees. It did. So they were wrong. But the eight hours would
start at 6:00 in the morning when the people would come to prepare
breakfast and end at 8:30. Then it would start again at 11:00 and go
until 2:00 and then it would stop. It would start again at 5:00 until
7:30. I don't know how many hours that is, but they would get
eight hours a day of work in, but they had to be there fourteen hours,
you know. There's nothing much you can do between 9:30 and
11:00. They used to hang around outside Lenoir Hall with nothing to do.
So, that was one thing. And then, the guy who ran it, there were a lot
of grievances about, "Why can't I be a cashier? Why
do only whites get to be cashiers?" And things like that.
You'd been there so many years, and that didn't
help you to get to be a cook. So, there was no upgrading. The people
really felt abused and I don't think there was any particular
spark of any sort that started it. But they went on the strike. I was
the President of the AAUP then and we were having a meeting of the
Executive Committee of the AAUP at one of the food places which has now
since been closed. And we found out we couldn't be served
because there was a strike. So, we then thought, "Should we get
involved in this?" And I thought, "Well, we are
involved in it." We can't even have our meeting. The
faculty is involved." So, we started an expanded executive
Committee and we invited the Food Worker's Union and the
graduate students and the YMCA and the dean of
something to meet every day with a brown bag lunch. And we met every day
and tried to negotiate and basically, be informative and dispel rumors;
all that sort of thing. Gustavison met with us regularly, as I recall.
Well, then the thought was, "This thing has got to be
settled." The Governor gave everybody a pay raise, ultimately,
after he had sent the troops in to rescue the old law school building.
That was a trauma to have the State Troopers to come in with big sticks
and helmets and plastic masks and everything. They took one giant step
forward and we took a half a step backward and it was really traumatic.
But then, what do you do about it? Then the Faculty Council adopted a
resolution that would appoint a committee to look into see
what's right and what's wrong. And all that time,
there was a Scott. He was brother of the governor or the uncle of the
governor. I forget what his first name was. But he was an extremely
influential legislator and might well have been a Trustee. Anne called
him every day to keep him informed of what was going on so that he could
tell whoever was appropriate about it. And she had an entire network of
people that she was calling every day and inform that it's
not true that this happened or that happened. And the only violence that
took place was that one day the strikers, at 7:15, and it closes at
7:30, went through Lenoir Hall and turned over tables. They came in one
door, walked through, turned over the tables that were there and went
out the other door. Somebody called that "assault upon a
table" or something. Well, that was the headlines for strikers,
you know. "Strikers commit mayhem." And Anne Queen was
calling all over. All they did was turn over a table. They went in there
and turned them up and the situation was corrected in three minutes. It
was not as WRAL reported. And she had the big network. And then, who
should be on the committee to investigate Anne Queen, obviously? So,
they came out and the recommendation was that wages be repaid, the
Federal required wages, to obey the Federal law. And that there be a
grievance process. And that was the first grievance process for the SBA
people. They are now arguing about the grievance process. That was Anne
Queen's grievance process, initially, but they kicked out the
lawyers. I told Anne, "Put in a lawyer thing. They need
somebody there to advise them." It goes back that far.